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Mistakes undo Georgia Tech in loss to Hokies

Yellow Jackets quarterback Vad Lee fumbles the ball in the first half of Thursday’s game against Virginia Tech. Lee committed three turnovers in the 17-10 loss. (Reuters)

Yellow Jackets quarterback Vad Lee fumbles the ball in the first half of Thursday’s game against Virginia Tech. Lee committed three turnovers in the 17-10 loss. (Reuters)

ATLANTA — There may not be enough Liquid Paper in the world to cover up all the mistakes made by Georgia Tech during its “White Out” game against Virginia Tech on Thursday at Grant Field.

The Yellow Jackets were beaten 17-10 by the Hokies and committed nine penalties, tying for the most since Paul Johnson took over as coach.

“I’ve never seen so many mistakes,” he said. “It was a comedy of errors.”

Johnson wasn’t immune, saying it was “probably not the smartest decision” to go for it on fourth-and-2 at his own 37-yard line. The Jackets were trailing by one score and there was more than eight minutes remaining. David Sims was stopped a yard short.

The Jackets got lucky though when Virginia Tech missed a 25-yard field goal attempt.

But the cumulative effect of so many mistakes couldn’t be undone.

“For whatever reason, we self-destruct,” Johnson said.

Johnson ran through a slew of mental errors made by the offense, defense and special teams.

On offense, because Virginia Tech was timing the snap count correctly and disrupting some of the running plays, Georgia Tech elected to try to change the snap count. But the players kept jumping before the snap. They were flagged six times for false starts, including three in the first quarter.

The offense couldn’t get into a sync, converting just two of 10 third downs. The Yellow Jackets finished with more yards passing (144) than rushing (129).

“We knew their defense and the defense played a heck of a game,” B-back Zach Laskey said. “We prepared well and didn’t execute as well as we should have.”

On defense, the biggest error came on Virginia Tech’s first series. The Hokies sucked Georgia Tech’s defense in with play action before Logan Thomas hit D.J. Coles running against the flow of the play for an easy 21-yard touchdown pass just a few minutes into the game.

Of course, the defense was working with a short field because quarterback Vad Lee fumbled and lost the ball on the Jackets’ fourth play. Lee threw two interceptions. The Yellow Jackets had three fumbles, losing the one by Lee.

“It’s frustrating but it’s just one game in a big season,” defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu said. “We can’t let it bring us down.”

On special teams, Georgia Tech’s average field position for the game was the 22-yard line. In the second half, it was the 15-yard line. For the game, Virginia Tech’s average start was the 33-yard line.

“We’ve got to play better and we’ve got to coach better, bottom line,” Johnson said.

TECH HONORS LEGENDS: Some of those who once wore the Old Gold are a little grayer now, but still they gathered Thursday before Georgia Tech’s game against Virginia Tech.

More than 30 former Yellow Jackets football All-Americans and/or Academic All-Americans were brought together as part of the festivities to celebrate Grant Field’s 100th anniversary.

“It shows just how good Georgia Tech football has been, and for a long time,” said Marco Coleman, an All-American as an outside linebacker on Tech’s 1990 national championship team and then honored again in ’91. “It’s not only All-Americans, some of these guys went on to professional football and were Hall of Famers and really made a big mark on the game.”

The group spanned generations, dating to the 1952 squad represented by halfback Leon Hardeman and guard Ed Gossage, through 2011 and ’12 honoree Omoregie Uzzi.

“It’s quite a gathering,” Gossage said.

Bill Curry, honored as a center in 1964, started to connect some of threads of Tech generations.

Growing up, Curry remembers watching two of his Tech heroes, quarterback Wade Mitchell (Academic All-American 1955) and guard Allen Ecker (honored for athletic and academic achievements, 1956).

Across the room sat Dave Watson (All-American, 1962), a member of the team that upset No. 1 Alabama 7-6 in 1962, and a player Curry said beat the stuffing out of him while he was learning to play center.

On the other side of the room was coach Dick Inman, who ran Curry up and down the steps at Grant Field when Curry skipped a class as a freshman. It was the last class he ever skipped.

And Curry spotted Leo Tierney, who was a center on the first position group Curry coached in 1976. Tierney was an All-American in 1975 and ’76.

“To see those four groups in a 10-minute time is wonderful,” Curry said. “I can’t remember anything nicer than this.”

Rock Perdoni, an All-American as a defensive tackle in 1969 and ’70, said Coleman was a player he looked forward to meeting again. Curry was the All-American that Coleman said he most wanted to meet. They spent a few minutes chatting near a buffet line at the Georgia Tech Hotel, where the group met. Coleman looks like he can still play, while Curry remains trim.

“Walking through the halls, these were the faces I saw on the walls,” Coleman said. “It’s a privilege and honor to be here with them.”

About two hours before kickoff, the contingent led the team down Yellow Jacket Alley to the stadium. Preceded by the drumbeat and clanging cymbals of the Tech marching band, the graying Jackets even had a herald — former Jacket J.C. Lanier, who held up a sign announcing the All-Americans’ arrival. Decked out in identical white polo shirts, they ambled en masse through a tunnel of Tech fans. Warmly received, they shook hands and pointed at friends.

The group gathered again to be honored at halftime, with former quarterback Joe Hamilton (honored in 1999) receiving the loudest cheers.

Of course, you can take the players off the football field, but you can’t take the football out of the old players.

Asked what they were most looking forward to Thursday, some mentioned seeing old friends. Others mentioned just watching a game.

Most had the same answer.

“I’m looking forward to a victory, most of all,” Gossage said.